Every president entering office has bumpy times getting a staff in place, “and we’re seeing a little bit of that” from President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, told The Times last week.
“But I think overall, it’s been very good,” Collins said, assessing Trump’s early days in the White House. “We’re excited about working with him.”
Collins, who began his third two-year term Jan. 1, took time from a packed schedule last week to speak by phone from Congress about the political climate in Washington since Trump took over Jan. 20.
One thing noteworthy about Trump so far is that “he’s actually doing what he said he was going to do.
“He started reversing some of the detrimental executive orders from the previous administration, he’s working to begin to lay out a foundation of talking to many groups and talking to Capitol Hill — both Republicans and Democrats,” Collins said.
“It’s been a real exciting time to watch.”
For many Americans, Trump’s early actions — particularly a temporary travel ban involving seven Muslim-majority countries — have sparked protests and criticism.
On Sunday, administration officials were mulling whether to pursue a U.S. Supreme Court appeal of a lower court ruling against the ban.
“It could have been handled better,” Collins said of the issue. “I think (Trump) was following through on, from his perspective, a safety issue.”
He said President Barack Obama was the first who raised this issue.
“To say that this is something (Trump) brought out of the air is a Democratic reinterpretation of history and does nobody a service.”
In 2011, the Obama administration slowed processing for Iraqi nationals seeking refuge in the U.S. under the government's Special Immigrant Visa program for translators and interpreters who worked with American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Another provocative issue, one rooted in Trump’s presidential campaign, has been the president’s call for wall on the Mexican border — a structure that would be paid for by Mexico. He has suggested a tax on Mexican imports to foot the bill.
“Again, let’s have a truth of history here,” Collins said.
Key Democratic leaders voted in 2006 “to authorize this wall, and the authorization is still there,” he said. “And now, it’s become a political issue. I think we’re going to work at how to get it funded, how we can move forward and getting it built.”
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 passed 80-19, with all Republicans but one and most Democrats supporting it.
“Relations with Mexico, I think, are going to improve and be strong,” Collins said. “There are things Mexico would like to see (improve) in our trade relations, and I think we’re going to see those addressed.
“It’s just a new time in our history, and we’ll see how it moves forward.”
One key frustration for Collins, recently named chairman of the Subcommittee on Rules and Organization of the House, “is the absolute historic obstructionism going on in the U.S. Senate,” he said.
“Whether you like (Trump) or not, voted for him or not, he is the president of the United States and should have a cabinet that is in place and ready to go … so we can begin the work, not just his agenda, but just average, everyday work,” Collins said.
The congressman said a real highlight for him in Trump’s early days was picking U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“Dr. Price is phenomenal,” Collins said. “We’ve seen him work in Georgia. (Trump) understands we’re going to get a doctor who has many years of medical practice, who understands the problems, the issues. It’s going to impact the country.”
Price’s confirmation Friday as secretary was also praised by Gov. Nathan Deal.
“I look forward to continuing to work with my good friend and former colleague on behalf of Georgians,” Deal said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.